ELCI Breakers are safety devices installed to prevent Electric Shock Drownings. They are typically not required, but inspectors may encounter them.

While more dangerous in freshwater, drownings happen in both fresh and saltwater when people become better electrical conductors of leakage A/C current than the surrounding water. Faulty dock or boat wiring is a common cause of dangerous electrical power in waters around docks and marinas.  The danger only becomes known when someone enters the water and is immobilized by the electrical shock.  These tragedies grow when rescuers enter the same dangerous waters in an attempt to help, and become victims as well.

ELCI Breakers detect amperage difference (imbalance) between the hot (black) wire and the neutral (white) wire and trip if there is a significant difference (leakage) between power going to the boat (hot wire) and that coming back (neutral wire) from the boat to shore power.

ELCI-protected breakers are designed to ‘trip’ and turn-off power if an imbalance is detected between the power (amperage) going to the boat and returning back to the shore power receptacle. 

Before attempting test ELCI-protect power, make sure you know how to reset the ELCI feature on the shore power receptacle. There are a variety of different ELCI-protected breaker configurations and the ELCI reset isn’t always easy to find – make sure it’s the ELCI reset as differentiated from the over-amperage reset!

Some breakers have a single “reset” position on the breaker toggle switch for resetting both the ELCI trip and the over-amperage trip. Others have two separate reset positions. Some ELCI-protected shore power installations have no ELCI reset at each power receptacle. Instead, they have one ELCI-protected breaker located at the power distribution panel providing power for a section of the marina. Any boat leaking excessive amperage within that section of the marina will trip the single ELCI-protected breaker, turning off power to all of the boats in that section of the marina, and marina staff will need to be notified to correct the problem.